June 14, 2015

0061, 1510, 1666 MALAYSIA (Sarawak) - Iban people


0061 - Ibans performing ngajat dance in a longhouse

Posted on 05.12.2011, 04.04.2015, 14.06.2015
The population of Borneo (the third largest island in the world, divided between IndonesiaMalaysia, and  Brunei), totaling 20 million, mainly consists of Dayak ethnic groups, Malay, Banjar, Orang Ulu, Chinese and Kadazan-Dusun. Dayak is actually a generic term that designate six native clusters subdivided into approximately 450 sub-clusters, each with its own dialect, customs, laws, territory and culture. One of the most important branch of the Dayak are the Ibans, or Sea Dayak, located in Sarawak, Brunei, a small portion in Sabah and West Kalimantan. In the past, the Dayak practiced the headhunting, and the Ibans were pioneers of this custom, but after conversion to Christianity the practice was banned and disappeared, only to resurface in WWII (against the Japanese) and in the late 90s, when Dayak attacked Madurese emigrants.

1501 - An Iban with his grandson

The Ibans live in longhouses (rumah panjai), a massive communal structures usually located along a terraced river bank (there are over 4,500 longhouses only in Sarawak). They might reach up to 12m in height and to hundreds of metres in lenght, at times bringing more than 100 families under one roof, and affording safety from attacks during times of warfare. A traditional longhouse is built of axe-hewn timber, tied with creeper fibre, roofed with leaf thatch. Inside, the families live in separate apartments arranged along a central corridor (ruai), which serves as a communal area. Lack of class distinction favors this way of life. Or maybe vice versa? Anyway, in nowadays many have abandoned this system in favour of individual houses.

1666 - Iban people in tradition clothes

The most significant traditional Iban festivals are the rice harvesting festival Gawai Dayak, the bird festival Gawai Burong and the spirit festival Gawai Antu. The first one is celebrated on the 1st of June, at the end of the harvest season, to worship the Lord Sempulang Gana. On this occasion the Iban decorate houses with Pua Kumbu (traditional cloth), serve the guests with Tuak (a wine made of rice) and dance. The first postcard shows ibans performing ngajat dance in a longhouse, accompanied by the the music from tribal musical instruments (taboh and gendang). This dance serves many purposes depending on the occasion, and involves a lot of precise body-turning movements. The ngajat for men is more aggressive and depicts a man going to war, or a bird flying, while the women's form of the dance consists of graceful movements with very precise body turns.

The male dancers wear a headgear made from the tail feathers of the hornbill, hold often an ornate and long shield in their hand with chains, beads and a loincloth (cawat). The female dancer have an elaborate headdress, chains, beads and a 'dress' that reaches to below their knees with intricate weaving. The ngajat was also adopted by the Royal Ranger Regiment (an infantry regiment of the Malaysian Army originally composed almost exclusively of Iban soldiers) as part of the regimental drill used to welcome visiting dignitaries. Nothing strange, because it seems that traditionally, in the 16th century, this dance was performed by warriors on their return from battles.

About the stamp
On the postcard 0061
The stamp belongs to Virtues (Nilai Nilai Murni) set, issued on June 13, 2011. The ten values of 60 sen showing "virtues of life": love, hard working, courteous, mutual respect (the one found on the postcard), independent, awareness, kind hearted, thankful, living in harmony, integrity.

On the postcard 1501
The stamp is part of the series Piala Dunia Golf '99.

On the postcard 1666


The stamps are part of the series Birds of Malaysia, issued on May 14, 2005:
Spotted Dove / Streptopelia chinensis (0.20 MYR) - It's on the postcard
Ochraceous Bulbul / Alophoixus ochraceous (0.30 MYR) - It's on the postcard
Long-tailed Parakeet / Psittacula longicauda (0.40 MYR)
White-rumped Shama / Copsychus malabaricus (0.50 MYR)
Olive-back Sunbird / Nectarinia jugularis (0.75 MYR)
Green-winged Pigeon / Chalcophaps indica (1.00 MYR)
Banded Pitta / Pitta guajana (2.00 MYR)
Imperial Pigeon / Ducula aenea (5.00 MYR)

References
Iban People - Wikipedia
The Ibans - Tha Malaysia Site
Longhouse Visits with Sarawak's Indigenous Peoples - Borneo Lifestyles

Sender 0061: Sally Jiaqi (direct swap)
Sent from Sarikei (Sarawak / Malaysia), on 11.11.2011 (a very special date)
Photo: Albert Teo / 2005
Sender 1501: Melinda Adysti Trisna (direct swap)
Sent from Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur / Malaysia), on 27.01.2015
Photo: Albert Teo / 2005 
Sender 1666: Isabella
Sent from ??? (Sarawak / Malaysia), on 11.03.2014
Photo: Albert Teo / 2005 

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